NOTED STAGE ACTOR: J. FORBES ROBERTSON

ROBERTSONJohnston Forbes-Robertson (1853-1937) was a celebrated English actor and theater manager. He was considered to be one of the finest actors of his time. He was particularly noted for his portrayal of Hamlet. He did not profess a passion for his acting profession. He was born in London. His father was a journalist and theater critic. He had ten siblings and four of them pursued acting. His original interest was to become an artist, but to support himself financially he entered acting. He worked with Sir Henry Irving for some time as a second lead actor. He then became a lead actor. His starring roles included Dan’l Druce, Blacksmith and The Parvenu (1882). George Bernard Shaw wrote the part of Caesar for him in Caesar and Cleopatra. Forbes Robertson acted in a number of Shakespeare plays and also appeared a number of times with actress Mary Anderson in the 1880’s. In 1900 he married the American actress, Gertrude Elliott (1874-1950). In 1930, Forbes Robertson was knighted. This cabinet card portrait was produced by photographer Benjamin Falk who’s studio was located in New York City. Forbes Robertson is captured in costume in this image. The reverse of the photo is stamped “J. M. Russell 126 Tremont Street, Boston”.

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FANNY DAVENPORT: AMERICAN STAGE ACTRESS (1880)


                                                                          PHOTO 1

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The top Cabinet Card is an image of American stage actress, Fanny Davenport. The photograph is dated February 28, 1880. Miss Davenport (1850-1898) was thirty years of age when she sat for this photograph by Emil Scholl, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He photographed many celebrities and this site has a category that includes a number of his images.  To view these images, click on the category “Photographer: Scholl”. Davenport was born in London, England and educated in public schools in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1862 she appeared in ” Faint Heart Never Won Fair Lady” in New York. In 1869 she became a member of the Augustin Daly Theater Company. She later formed her own company. She had great success in “Fedora” (1883) and “Cleopatra” (1890). Fellow actor, Otis Skinner, in a backhanded compliment stated that “Miss Davenport was a handsome woman, her business sense keen and her industry untiring. To these qualities rather than her acting, she owed the late success in which she accumulated a fortune in her productions.” The second photograph features a portrait of Davenport by Thomas Houseworth, whose studio was located in San Francisco, California. This image was part of the “Houseworth Celebrities” series. The series included three thousand titles for different categories, including entertainment and government. Note the carving below the chairs armrest in this photograph. Also take notice of Miss Davenport’s interesting hat. Thomas Houseworth (1828-1915) was an optician, photographer, and photographic publisher. Houseworth and George S. Lawrence came to San Francisco in 1849, during the Gold Rush. They caught gold fever and worked as miners in Calavera and Trinity counties. After two years of mining, they admitted defeat, and returned to San Francisco. In 1855, they partnered in a store that sold optical supplies and other miscellaneous items; but the partners became most well known for their stereographs. In 1859 they sold stereographs from an English company, but they soon contracted with local photographers to acquire and publish a diverse collection of stereos featuring various aspects and scenery of northern California and western Nevada. Later, they began to publish and market stereographs under their own name and by the early 1860’s had built the largest collection of stereographs for sale on the west coast. Lawrence retired in 1868 and the firm became known as Thomas Houseworth and Company. Houseworth hired the most talented photographers he could find.  His photographers included Thomas Hart (Transcontinental Railroad Construction), Carleton Watkins (The Sierras’), and Eadweard Muybridge (Yosemite). By the 1870’s Houseworth’s business was failing due to increased competition. He left the field of photography in the 1880’s and went to work as an accountant and an optometrist.